Review: The Chilli Factory “Outback Storm” Roast Tomato Chili Basil Relish
Marcel de Wit, a chef by trade, his wife Connie and brother Alex run The Chilli Factory in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Note the Australian spelling of chilli, with two L’s. Living in that part of the world afforded the de Wits the opportunity to travel to parts of Southeast Asia that many consider the world’s “cradle of capsicum”, where they discovered the pleasures of hot chillis. Now it is their livelihood, and my first taste of their product line would indicate they are very good at it.
Ingredients: Tomato, onion, carrot,” chilli”, vinegar, sugar, herbs and spices.
I usually like to decide what I’m putting my sauce on before I review it, based on its appearance in the bottle and my “gut feel”. The label offered some possibilities, saying it was a great condiment for any BBQ or as a dip, or to try it with pasta (?!!). But this one looked so much like a salsa, I decided to just use the good old roasted corn tortilla chips.
First Impression – To begin my organoleptic examination, I opened the jar. I took a whiff ““ it smelled like salsa, somewhat “tomatoey”. I poured it out on a plate ““ it looked like salsa. Before the chip test, I took several spoonfuls to see if it would behave like salsa. It had the texture all right ““ with nice small chunks of the onion, tomato, and whole basil leaves, stem and all, plus flakes and seeds of whatever secret chilli they put in there. So the look and the texture passed the test ““ rustic and pleasing.
Flavors -when you taste Outback Storm, you have (I timed it!) about 4 seconds to figure out the flavors before”¦wham!…the chillis start doing their job. More about that in a second”¦well, 4 seconds. I like the flavor a lot. Tomatoes predominate. I guess to compliment the basil, they have used Roma tomatoes in this relish. That’s a great choice because when they are treated right, Romas taste wonderfully fruity in a sauce, a salsa, or a relish. The way to bring that fruitiness out is to have just the right amount of sugar in the batch ““ not too little, not too much. Marcel got it right ““ sweet like a ripe plum tomato ““ that’s my first taste, along with a pleasant garlic flavor.
Now to the wham! Consider this: in Southeast Australia, they have been making great wines for generations, but only in the last 10 or so years have the wines in this region really caught on with Americans. Why? The Aussies understand the needs of the “me generation” of wine drinkers. That’s why they began to produce and export more “fruit forward” wines ““ those that have almost exaggerated flavor characteristics that are most pleasing to wine drinkers who are looking for instant gratification.
So, too, has The Chilli Factory done it with this “fire forward” relish! No waiting. The heat starts”¦tick, tick, tick, tick“¦NOW! It burns first your lips, next the interior of your mouth from top to bottom, then the top of your tongue, and the back of your throat (the latter lasting a mercifully brief period of time). But the mouth burn sticks with you, even after a swig of a cold liquid. Mind you, it’s a tolerable and, for me, altogether pleasant attack on the mouth. I know not from where the chillis come, but the activity of my various sweat points (in this case, eye sockets, side of nose, top of forehead at the hairline and back of skull) would indicate that the variety comes from one of the exotic Asian ports of call the de Wits visited in years past.
So, do use this like a salsa, but don’t limit yourself. Use it as a true condiment, maybe in the same way you would spoon Sambal on your Satay or other grilled meats on a stick. The company website suggests you dip it along with sour cream and that’s a fine idea too. This relish would surely perk up that ubiquitous 7-layer Mexican party dip. You know the one ““ you invite 10 couples over and tell them to bring an appetizer, and 9 of them show up with that mess! Well, keep a few jars of Outback Storm around, just in case that happens!
Initial impression: 6.5/10
Ingredient quality/content: 8.5/10
The Chili Factory
1 Ironbark Rd
Morisset NSW 2264